During winter months, temperatures drop and might cause water pipes in residential homes to freeze and burst. When water freezes, it expands and puts pressure on the pipes, causing a massive rapture since the ice cannot expand in the pipeline. When the pipe bursts, the ice will start to thaw, and thus, you may be on the verge of experiencing a major flood in your home. Here are some facts for homeowners to know about dealing with frozen pipes.

Preventing Frozen Water Pipes -- Although frozen pipes are one of the primary reasons why homeowners call for emergency plumbing services, precautions must be taken to insulate the pipes before the onset of cold weather. Insulate the pipes using lagging material sourced locally. During insulation, ensure that you leave no gaps, especially where pipes bend. Also, homeowners must know the location of the shutoff valve or stopcock just in case they need to shut off the water supply when the pipes freeze or when there is a burst pipe. Another preventive measure is to set the central heating system on low heat, whether you're at home or not. 

Locating Frozen Pipes -- There are areas in a home where plumbing pipes are most vulnerable to freezing. These are the coldest places in a home, such as the outside walls that link to the outdoors. Another place to inspect is the outdoor faucets that connect to garden hoses. Unheated basement or crawl spaces and cabinets underneath a sink are also susceptible to sub-zero temperatures that cause frozen pipes.

Turn Off Water Supply -- Identifying a frozen pipe that is yet to burst is a first step in averting a disaster. A slow trickle of water through the taps or absence of water may be a sign that your pipes are frozen but have not yet to. Therefore, locate the main shutoff valve and turn it off to stop more water from getting into the pipes. After switching off the main water supply, you should then open the taps being supplied by the frozen pipe. At this point, you may want to seek professional help if you are not a DIYer. 

Thawing -- After identifying sections of the pipe that have ice or frost, you will have to thaw them. However, the method of thawing will depend on the location of the pipe. Pipes hidden behind walls or the ceiling should be exposed to the home's heating system. Increase the indoor heat by adjusting your thermostat accordingly. An infrared lamp may be necessary to heat wall sections adjacent to frozen pipes. For exposed frozen pipes, you should heat them from the tap moving towards the frozen section so that water can flow as the ice melts. You can use a heat lamp, portable heater or hairdryer to thaw pipes. Avoid open flames because they can damage the pipe besides presenting a fire hazard. 

To learn more, contact your local emergency plumber.